I was hesitant to share this story at first. I've always believed it was a paranormal experience; but when telling the story to others, it's hard not to brush it off as "just a dog" or "just my imagination". But I wasn't the only one to experience this and I've seen so many others have similar stories on this site.
When I was between the ages of 6-11, my younger sister, Mom, Dad and I lived on a large farm. My parents rented the place and though much of the land was used for farming by the land owners, there weren't any actual farm animals on the property. There were acres upon acres of farm land, buildings and barns that hadn't been used in many years, and acres of forest we used for hunting at the rear of the property. Being the independent, Indiana Jones loving tomboy I was; it was heaven and I spent most days out wondering the area alone.
Now, even though there weren't any farm animals, our family did have pets. There were a ton of indoor and outdoor cats that just kind of showed up and our Labrador mix Ajax. Ajax was a big black mutt who still reigns as the best dog I've ever had in my life. He was so big he played with a bowling ball; rolling it up and down the driveway. He also liked to dunk the more troublesome tom cats in mud puddles... He was awesome.
I think I was 8 or 9 when this incident happened. As usual I was exploring. I know my intention was to go into the hayloft in the biggest of the barns. My friend and I were supposed to go up into it earlier that day, but he chickened out. So here I was at dusk walking down the long lane back to the Black Barn; thinking about what will lay before me after I climb that wooden ladder. (there were so many buildings we named them by color or what we thought they were for; like sheep barn, grain barn, red barn...)
I was playing with a blade of long grass in my hands and looking down at it when I heard the low growl. Honestly, I thought it was the wind at first. Looking up I saw a big black dog blocking the lane. Obviously, I thought it was Ajax; MY big black dog. I called out and began walking towards him when I heard the growl again. It was a low growl that felt like it made my chest vibrate. Maybe I was just being stupid, but I still thought this was Ajax. I started trying to placate him; "What's wrong boy?" "You ok buddy?", while still taking hesitant steps towards him.
As I got closer I realized just how much bigger this dog was than Ajax. I remember feeling an icy cold drape over me. This huge black dog was using his body to block my path, head turned towards me growling with his back arched up and his front paws stretched out as if ready to lunge.
Immediately upon realizing this thing wasn't my dog, I saw Ajax's head out of the corner of my right eye as he came up to stand next to me. Ajax didn't growl. I turned my head to look at him and I heard my Dad behind me say "Don't move" in his own human sort of growl.
I swear the next few seconds play back in my head like some sort of a movie. I was still looking at the dog that wasn't mine; his eyes as black as his fur, when I heard the clicking sound of Dad putting the rifle to his shoulder and hitting the safety. That was the moment I lost all my will; I turned back towards my dad and ran the few steps to him. In those few steps I heard Ajax bark and the gun go off; but I didn't see anything, my arms were wrapped around Dad's waist and my face buried in his beer belly.
Dad dropped the gun from his shoulder and put his hand on my shoulder; pulling me away from him and making me turn back towards the dog. (While to some it may seem harsh to make your young daughter stare at the dog you just killed, it was pretty normal with my dad/family)
The thing was, the dog wasn't there... It wasn't laying dead or running down the lane towards the forest or headed to the Black Barn...
I looked at Ajax, who was still looking in the direction the black dog had been with the fur on the back of his neck raised; then back up at my dad, with what I'm sure was a very shocked look on my face. All he said was "It's gone. Don't go in the Black Barn again."
I don't know how he'd known I had been in the barn earlier that day because he was at work; or how he could've known that's where I was going at that time because there were a bunch of buildings back there.
I'm going to preface the rest of this story with this: just about the only thing my dad and I had in common when I was growing up was a sensitivity to the paranormal and a love of reading. We didn't talk much, but when we did, it was usually about one of those two subjects and after he'd had a few drinks.
So here's the thing, we didn't talk about it right afterward. We were silent during the long walk back to the house that night. But we did talk about it a few weeks later.
Living out in a rural area you get used to predators like coyotes, foxes, even raccoons (those things are vicious!). And having a lot of barn cats, you get used to them disappearing; either running off or falling prey to one of the aforementioned predators. So, one time at dinner my sister mentioned a cat she hadn't seen for a while and I commented "I bet it was the black dog." and my dad said "Yeah, probably". I recognized this as my window and asked him about it after dinner.
He told me he'd seen that "thing" as he called it, a couple times before. He said it started by seeing it out of the corner of his eyes while he was hunting in the forested back acres. Later, saw it coming out of the Black Barn when he was pulling in after work one night. He said it was always at dawn or dusk when he saw it, when the light was low.
I specifically asked him about the incident a couple weeks before; what happened to the dog? Where did it go? He said (I swear I will never forget the sound of his voice when he said this for the rest of my life) "It was just smoke, there was no dog".